President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address on Tuesday is expected to draw protesters to the Washington, D.C., area, including to a demonstration on the National Mall.
A tall fence surrounds parts of U.S. Capitol grounds, and other efforts to restrict access include trucks and plows blocking streets.
Chris Rodriguez, D.C.’s director of homeland security, told News4 that the State of the Union should go on safely and securely.
The National Park Service approved a permit for a demonstration near the Sylvan Theater, an outdoor venue near the Washington Monument.
A small number of participants Tuesday afternoon listened to a speaker. A banner citing support for “our God-given rights” and “ending the mandates” hung on the stage.
Kyle Sefcik, who filed the permit for the demonstration, said he hoped hundreds to a few thousand people would gather to protest COVID-19 related mandates.
Michael Letts is an organizer of the rally and of a trucker convoy that announced plans to protest near D.C. on Tuesday. He said a “peaceful, constitutional” event was planned.
Letts' group had announced plans to depart from Hagerstown, Maryland, on Tuesday and make their way to D.C. Organizers encouraged the drivers to join the demonstration on the National Mall. It’s unclear how many vehicles are participating or if the convoy will have any impact on traffic.
Rodriguez said that a larger group of truckers who were apparently influenced by a demonstration that disrupted trade across the U.S.-Canada border isn't expected to disrupt the State of the Union.
“The latest information that we have is that the truckers should not be here for the State of the Union,” Rodriguez said. “Some of their movements across the country have slowed down.”
Hundreds of National Guard members have been deployed to assist with traffic control, NBC Washington reported.
Law enforcement officials say they don’t anticipate any serious issues with possible protests.
Heightened Security Around US Capitol
While there are no specific or credible threats related to President Biden’s speech, law enforcement officials are taking no chances following the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when a violent mob caught the District of Columbia by surprise and successfully stormed the U.S. Capitol, briefly disrupting the certification of Biden’s 2020 presidential victory.
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger said Sunday the fencing is being erected on Capitol grounds “out of an abundance of caution.”
The State of the Union address is designated as a “national special security event,” which clears the way for communication, funding and preparation between multiple agencies in Washington, including the Capitol Police, Pentagon, Homeland Security and District-area police. Other such events are the Super Bowl and the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. The U.S. Secret Service is in charge of the event.
Investigators have been monitoring online chatter, which includes an array of general threats against elected officials but there are no specific or credible threats against the event, the officials said.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee has said his department is closely monitoring the shifting information and would be devoting additional policing in a rolling state of heightened alert over the next few weeks.
Road Closures Planned for State of the Union
Authorities have released a list of road closures that will begin Tuesday. They said these are the same road closures that U.S. Capitol Police have had in the past and are not related to the potential truck and vehicle convoys.
The following streets will be closed to traffic beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday:
- East Capitol Street between Second Street NE/SE and First Street NE/SE
- Constitution Avenue between Second Street NE and Louisiana Avenue NW
- D Street between Second Street NE and First Street NE
- First Street between Constitution Avenue NE and Independence Avenue SE
- New Jersey Avenue between C Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW
- First Street between Louisiana Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW
- Pennsylvania Avenue between First Street NW and Third Street NW
- Maryland Avenue between First Street SW and Third Street SW
- Independence Avenue between Washington Avenue SW and Second Street SE
The following streets will be closed to traffic beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday:
- Second Street from Constitution Avenue NE to East Capitol Street NE/SE
- First Street from Columbus Circle to D Street NE
- Delaware Avenue from Columbus Circle to D Street NE
- D Street from First Street NE to Louisiana Avenue NW
- Louisiana Avenue from C Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
- First Street from C Street NW to Louisiana Avenue NW
- Constitution Avenue from Third Street NW to Louisiana Avenue NW
- Independence Avenue from Third Street SW to Washington Avenue SW
- Washington Avenue from Independence Avenue SW to Second Street SW
Metro Warns Metrobus Riders of Possible Delays
Metro advised Metrobus riders that detours and delays in downtown D.C. are possible Tuesday evening.
“Customers should avoid the area if possible and are encouraged to use Metrorail as an alternative,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.
Metro listed these 36 Metrobus routes that may be affected:
3F, 3Y, 5A, 16E, 16Y, 31, 32, 33, 36, 38B, 42, 43, 52, 54, 59, 63, 64, 70, 74, 79, 80, 96, D4, D6, D8, G8, L2, N2, N4, N6, P6, S2, S9, X2, X8, X9